Lawmakers Considering Roadside Drug Test Pilot Program
Over two years ago, a bill was introduced into the state legislature which would allow the Michigan State Police to set up a pilot program for roadside drug testing in Michigan. But is it any closer to becoming law here in Michigan?
The initial bill was actually dropped. Since then, a new version passed the senate on January 20th and is slowly winding its way through the House. Sponsored by state senators Tom Casperson, Rick Jones, and Mike Nofs, its purpose is to change the way police check a driver for intoxicants other than alcohol, right at the time of the traffic stop.
According to the legislation, the Michigan State Police would first set up a one year pilot program in three counties around the state, where they would conduct roadside saliva tests on potentially intoxicated drivers who had been pulled over. In theory, the roadside tests will be able to determine whether or not a driver is under the influence of a drug or controlled substance.
Working in much the same way as a Breathalyzer, the machines would conduct the tests by analyzing a swab of the driver’s saliva, looking for traces of six different controlled substances. If the results are positive, they could be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding. While it is not clear exactly what drugs the machines will be searching for, it appears that cannabinoids, opiates and amphetamines will be among them.
After a full year of the testing phase, the Michigan State Police will make a full report to the legislature, presenting all of the data they have gathered and generated during the course of the pilot program. If the results are favorable, and the pilot program is determined to have been successful, the legislature will authorize a roll out of the program throughout the state.
With regards to the opposition that this bill has met along the way, the major cause of concern has been the unreliability of the equipment, and the potential for false positives in the results. Another issue that has been raised repeatedly is that this new law would unfairly target medical marijuana patients.
If roadside drug testing is legalized in Michigan, we will become the 15th state in the U.S. to use roadside drug testing in one form or another. Outside of the U.S., this form of testing is already used in numerous European countries like England, Belgium and Germany, and in some parts of Australia.